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Participants and challenges

Shipbuilding, the first subsector of the metalworking industry to organise itself into a Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC), has developed a social dialogue that is mainly geared to lobbying the European institutions. It brings together the European Metalworkers’ Federation (EMF) for the workers, and the Community of European Shipyards’ Associations (CESA) for the employers. One of the main topics addressed to date is vocational training and skills, with a view to improving the sector’s image among young people.

The LeaderSHIP 2015 initiative launched in 2003 (see above) specifically advocated a strengthening of social dialogue in the shipbuilding sector so as to enable industries in the sector to meet the need for new skills.

It was in this context that the Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee (SSDC) was set up in 2003. At that time it was the first SSDC in the metalworking sector. Its objectives, as set out in its rules of procedure, mainly revolve around lobbying the European institutions. The CESA and the EMF hope to influence European and national debate, put forward recommendations, monitor the effects of European policies on the sector, monitor implementation of their opinions, guidelines and recommendations by the European institutions, and so on. The SSDC also intends – albeit apparently as less of a priority – to carry out bilateral projects and, where appropriate, to “embody the results of their dialogue into a European framework agreement”.

The topics addressed in the shipbuilding social dialogue are fairly limited for the time being. They mainly have to do with vocational training and skills, with a view to improving the sector’s image among young people and thereby remedying skills shortages. The initiatives undertaken by the SSDC on this topic are as follows. An initial study on shipyards in Europe was carried out between 2003 and 2006 in association with the University of Bremen (Shipbuilding in Europe -West and East- in a Global Context - Structure, Employment, Perspectives, University of Bremen, Institute of Labour and Economy). This study was subsequently updated and presented in April 2008 at the European Shipyard Week (the first Shipyard Week was organised by the social partners in 2006). The theme of the 2008 Week, organised by the social partners, was “Sea Your Future”. Its main aim was to promote the image of the sector, its enterprises and its jobs.

This was the background to the social partners’ formation of a working group on training and skills. The very first joint document issued, apart from the rules of procedure, was adopted on 6 June 2008 in the form of a human resources study entitled “Demographic Change & Skills Requirements in the European Shipbuilding & Ship Repair Industry”. It analyses the current situation and puts forward changes that are needed in the shipbuilding and repair sector in Europe. The social partners’ aim is to improve expertise in personnel management. Other initiatives and programmes to promote good practice were to be discussed in the SSDC based on the study’s findings.

The social partners were also planning to do further work on one of the main challenges confronting this sector: how to cope with the major fluctuations in demand caused by the cyclical nature of business, while preserving skills and jobs. This issue is more topical than ever now, in view of the global economic crisis.

ETUI and Observatoire Social Européen (2010) European Sectoral Social Dialogue Factsheets. Project coordinated by Christophe Degryse, online publication available at www.worker-participation.eu/EU-Social-Dialogue/Sectoral-ESD